This term I am teaching in the basement of a campus building where I rarely have classes . On Monday, I leisurely walked to my classroom, congratulating myself on being more than a few minutes early. It was a good thing, too, because someone had re-arranged the tables so that I didn’t have one at the front of the room for my laptop. A handful of students were already in their seats. I set down my bag and took off my coat and draped it on the back of the chair before I realized that I didn’t recognize the students. Not any of them.

They must be lingering from the previous class, I thought. I was early, after all. A few of them looked at me quizzically as they continued their conversations, probably wondering if they should stop talking and be on their way, to make room for my 2 p.m. crowd. I began to remove the contents of my bag and set up for class, erase the board, pull down the projector screen.

Not until more students entered and the bell was almost ready to ring did I realize I had taken a left turn in the long hallway one classroom too soon. As gracefully as possible, I gathered my belongings, draped my coat over my arm, and threaded my way through the rows of tables to the door in the back, escorted out by more than a few bemused expressions.

Embarrassed

When I told this story to my usual students a few minutes later, they laughed appreciatively.

At their age, I would have been devastated by such a mistake. That was one reason I shared it with them immediately, and why I tell them about my own struggles and occasional successes—past and present—with procrastination, organization, and perfectionism. If I can help them, just a little, to know that everyone struggles to have, in Brené Brown’s phrase, “the courage to be imperfect,” I feel I have had a successful day in the classroom.

Watch Brené Brown talk about embracing vulnerability and why it is important in our search for connection, then ask yourself how her thoughts apply to your writing life: